A few months back I began a journey of detoxing without even knowing it. It has jacked me up. My life is not the same. It began when I started reading the Gospels. To be honest it didn’t take long. I got stuck on the very first words of Jesus’ ministry. From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:17-19, NIV).
Let’s face it we could all use a little detoxing. If you find yourself tired, bored, or critical of others these may be early warning signs. At the same time a religious detox isn’t easy. Most of us settle until the pain of our current situation exceeds the pain of recovery. Most of us have enough religion to make us miserable, but not enough to change. Others have enough religion to make everyone else miserable, but we enjoy the control and god like quality that control gives us. Jesus wants to set us free. He wants to fill our existence with life.
Here is what I’m learning.
- Jesus came to show us a whole new way. We have lost our way. Religion is an expression of our lostness. In our attempt to earn God’s approval and/or meet the expectation of God and others we emerge ourselves in religious behavior. Our religion comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. We all have our religion of choice regardless if it takes the shape of the moralist, separatist, activist, or syncretist. Recognizing our need to repent from our various expressions of religion is the first step in a religious detox. More importantly it the first step in the life Jesus came to give you. Repenting involves asking, “What if I’m wrong?” In other words what if there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we view the Gospel?
- The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. – Jesus didn’t come in order that one day we might go to heaven. His purpose was much bigger than that. Jesus came in order that he might bring heaven to earth. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and it doesn’t end there. Jesus invites us to be a part of his new creation. He wants his creation to experience heaven on earth through us. Detoxing is a whole new orientation. My life is not longer about me only. What use to be a “me project” has become a “we project”. As we discover the secret and power of following him a whole new world opens up to us. It is then and only then we discover that we are citizens of his Kingdom.
- Jesus invites us to come as we are. This is the heart of the Gospel. Jesus invites us to come as we are. Regardless of your past, come. Regardless of what you believe, come. Muslim or Christian; come. Heathen or Pagan; come. Moralist or Separatist; come. Sinner or Saint; come. Religious or Irreligious; come. If we are willing to come, he will do the rest. Coming as you are is the way. No one is excluded. This is good news!
- Jesus invites us to follow him. In a religious world we believe. If you believe the right things then you must be right with God. In extreme cases we even go as far as to kill each other over our beliefs. We see it in the Muslim world. We even see it in dark periods of Christianity. This is religion at its worst. Religion steals our lives and kills our soul. Jesus invites us to follow him as we are. We believe, but do we follow? Jesus invites to us to follow first and then believe. Detoxing involves humility. Detox involves coming as a learner, a disciple. Detoxing involves trusting Jesus enough to follow him. For me, following Jesus begins each day with a simple prayer, “Show me your way”.
- Following changes our life. As we follow Jesus we will become. For Peter and John it was “fishers of men”. Life change is in the journey. Over time we are supernaturally transformed. At first we hardly recognize it. When we reflect we see the difference. This is a life long process. We see Jesus at work, we hear his voice, we understand his ways, and we join him. When we do we follow him and this following changes our lives forever.
- Jesus gives us purpose. Jesus gives purpose to our everyday existence. Our purpose is not an event, a position, or a moment in time. Our purpose is a person. That person is Jesus. When we grasp that Jesus is our purpose then we can live out our purpose in spite of our circumstance. When we recognize that Jesus is our purpose and learn to follow him every situation and circumstance in our lives can be filled with purpose. This is what a religious detox is all about! It’s about rediscovering the simplicity and centrality of Jesus and his ways. If we are really honest it may be about discovering the simplicity and centrality of Jesus and his ways for the very first time even though we have been religious or Christian for many years.